Euhagena nebraskae… again

Euhagena nebraskae - male

Earlier this year I showed a photograph of a mating pair of the clearwing moth (family Sesiidae) species, Euhagena nebraskae – seen last year in the Gypsum Hills of south-central Kansas on a cold, early-October day.  It was an okay photograph, made interesting primarily by nicely showing the high degree of sexual dimorphism seen in these moths.  Still, I wasn’t completely happy with the photo, wishing I had gotten a closer photograph of just the male with his highly bipectinate antennae and wispy, white thoracic tufts.  I got my wish on the first day of my recent fall tiger beetle collecting trip, seeing just this single male in the Pine Ridge area of northwestern Nebraska.  Despite the relatively warmer temperatures, he perched cooperatively atop a dried flower head and allowed me to photograph him to my heart’s content.

p.s. this one you really should click on to see the larger version, because the hair-like thoracic scales and flattened marginal scales on the wings are quite remarkable.

Photo Details: Canon 50D w/ 100mm macro lens (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/16), Canon MT-24EX flash w/ Sto-Fen + GFPuffer diffusers. Typical post-processing (levels, minor cropping, unsharp mask).

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

12 thoughts on “Euhagena nebraskae… again

  1. Great photo of a cool moth. This one’s fabulously fuzzy. The clearwings are all the more interesting for their disinterest in lights. Short of putting out pheromone lures, it’s really only by chance that they’re encountered.

    • Thanks, Seabrooke. Back in my Dept. Agriculture days I would carry with me pheromone lure and collect moths as they were attracted to me. I probably collected around 15 or so species that way here in east-central Missouri. I would also use it as a ‘teachable’ moment when visiting with nursery growers, who often thought I was being attacked by wasps. Most understood once I explained it, and if that didn’t work then I would grab a moth out of the air with my bare hand 🙂

      I have seen Synanthedon acerni and S. scitula at blacklights on more than a few occasions. But you’re right, most of the species in this group are simply uninterested in lights.

  2. Spectacular picture – even my wife is impressed.

    We have Synanthedon fatifera as a resident in our yard – alas! It bores into the crowns of Viburnum trilobum and has destroyed 3 of the 4 Wentworth varieties and 2 of the 3 Bailey Compact varieties that we planted to have a ‘native’ shrub with berries for the birds and hollow stems for nesting bees and wasps. This was certainly one time it didn’t pay to plant a native. I’m not sure what our clearwing is mimicking – it is mostly purple-blue-black with with spots on the abdomen, legs, and antennae – perhaps a pompilid (Interestingly, I just typed ‘pompiliid’ (sic) into BugGuide and got two pictures: Alcathoe autumnalis and a black ichneumonid: sometimes misspellings can be informative). Yours is a bit obscure on what kind of wasp, if any, it may be mimicking too.

    We ran some bait traps the last couple of years – for a friend working up the AB fauna – and in the hopes of saving the last two viburna, but all we got was one raspberry cane borer Pennisettia marginata. I chased another and more obvious yellow jacket mimic around the back yard this summer (including right past the bait trap) but never got close enough for a picture. That makes your picture even more impressive.

    Do you think that sesiids aren’t attracted to lights or is it that they don’t do much flying at night?

    • Hi Dave – thank you.

      Some of the more outlandish clearwings don’t seem to resemble any particular wasp/bee species, but they still look very hymenopterish in flight – I wonder if that’s enough to achieve mimickry protection without actually mimicing a certain species.

      I had the same experience as you trying to photograph this species last year in Kansas – just could not get close to any of them until I found the mating pair sitting on the ground. I’m still a little puzzled why this particular male was so cooperative, given the warm temps. The fact that it was the only one I saw makes it even more fortuitous.

      I think by and large most diurnal insects are not attracted to lights, but there are exceptions – both with clearwings, as I noted in my response to Seabrooke, and for some other strictly diurnal insects as well. I once encountered a jewel beetle, Agrilus cliftoni, consistently at my blacklights in a mature white oak forest over a period of a few years, with nearly all of the 150 or so specimens being males. I’m not sure if this was a one off experience with a high population or if the species is regularly attracted to lights like the two Synanthedon species I mention above. There is another Agrilus species (A. arcuatus) that I’ve not seen in such numbers but have encountered it at lights off and on since I’ve been collecting. I’ve never collected this latter species abundantly, so I don’t think it is just a case of ‘overflow’ with a heavy population. Too many questions…


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